This is an article from the November-December 2011 issue: Africa in Crisis

Discipling Africa Through Higher Education

A proposal for an African Christian University

Discipling Africa Through Higher Education

The continent of Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent on Earth, after Asia, including 22.3% of the world’s total land area.1, 2 In terms of Africa’s natural resources, it is the richest continent in the world, having 50 percent of the world’s gold, most of the world’s diamonds and chromium, 90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world’s potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, and millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources.3

So, why does Africa remain the world’s poorest and most broken continent in the world? Based on per capita gross domestic product, the world’s 10 poorest countries are in Africa.4 The United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI) reveals that 21 of the 25 lowest developed countries are in Africa.5 As a rough estimate of the continent’s educational standing, the latest measurements reveal that 14 of the 15 countries with the lowest literacy rates are also in Africa.6 While it is difficult to measure a country’s moral standing, the corruption perception index (CPI) attempts to statistically rank countries by their perceived levels of corruption as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys. According to their 2010 results, 13 of the world’s 25 most perceived corrupt nations are found in Africa.7

There has been extensive research and agreement that pouring financial aid into Africa as an approach to improve the impoverished nature of the continent is in fact having the opposite effect and is actually engendering a harmful, growth-stunting, state of dependence on international aid.8, 9 So, what is the answer?

From the political perspective, the solution to Africa’s development plight, corruption and poverty is believed to be through education, specifically higher education.10 The need here is great. According to The World Bank, “During the past decade, Africa has experienced the fastest increase in tertiary enrollment in the world, far outstripping economic growth and the capacity of government financing to keep pace.”11 Ex-president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, recently gave a speech calling for advances in higher education to address Africa’s desperate need. He exclaimed, “The regenerated African university must be the principal driver of that intellectual awakening, which awakening will empower the peoples of Africa to remake our societies and our continent.”12

Recovering a Biblical Worldview

Formulating a holistic, transformative, Christian higher education that fully acknowledges the preeminent need for the Holy Spirit’s work of redemption in Christ can be aided by an intimate understanding of the contextual worldviews in which such an educational environment will exist. As with any generalized worldview, the African worldview is exceedingly complex. It may encompass African traditional religious and colonial influences combined with Western, modern and postmodern influences. The African worldview also incorporates a variety of syncretistic “christian” influences that also require consideration.

Arthur Holmes uses the concept of gnostic dualism15 to describe what some African theologians have pointed out as a misconception in the way many Western missionaries have presented the Gospel in the African context. For example, in the words of Professor Stuart Fowler of Potchefstroom (now North-West) University in South Africa, “The most disastrous weakness of all the proclamation of the Gospel in Africa was the secularisation of public life and the parallel privatisation of religious faith… . That so many Christians have been persuaded to accept this dualism as natural, right and proper must be one of the greatest success stories in the never ending campaign of the father of lies to blunt the edge of the witness of the Gospel in this world.”16 This destructive influence is echoed by Professor Bennie J. van der Walt, who states that,

While many African Christians still look for the enemy outside themselves in, for instance, witchcraft, demons and other religions, a secular worldview has infiltrated deep into their hearts and lives. Added to this is a second irony, namely that this secular worldview did not originate from outside Christianity. It slowly developed from inside Christianity itself, being the direct result of a dualistic Christian worldview in which the “natural” realm was separated from the influence of the “sacred” realm. Secularism’s influence has become so pervasive on our continent that we don’t even recognize it.17

This dualism is set in contrast to the traditional African religious perspective where, “Nature, man and the spirit world constitute one fluid coherent unit.”18

African theologian Dr. Van der Poll summarizes well the result of this dualism:

Because the Gospel was not brought to the people as a new totally encompassing life view, which would take the place of an equally comprehensive traditional life view, the deepest core of the African culture remains untouched… . The convert in Africa did not see the Gospel as sufficient for his whole life and especially for the deepest issues of life. For that reason, we find the phenomenon across Africa today that Christians in time of existential needs and crises (such as danger, illness and death) fall back on their traditional beliefs and life views. It is precisely an area where the Gospel should have most relevance, yet the Gospel does not mean much in practical terms for the African.19

Considering aspects of all of these influences, the collage of such an African worldview must be set in light of a Biblical worldview to inform and guide an approach to education which might confront false, depraved thinking with truth and divine thinking. If such worldview influences and Western secularized aid and involvement in conforming Africa’s future direction are to be discerned, there must be a standard by which such influences can be interpreted. The attainment of such a standard is one valuable outcome of a higher education shaped by a Biblical worldview. African Christian University seeks to formulate such a presuppositional Christian education that fully embraces dependence on God’s grace through Christ in the transformation of the African mind to the glory of the Creator with an indigenous sensitivity, maintaining African distinctives for the betterment of God’s kingdom. 

A Proposed Vehicle through Christian Higher Education

The holistic nature of African culture, especially at this time of declared African Renaissance,22 much like the European Renaissance of the 15th-16th centuries, offers fertile ground for the inauguration of an African Christian Reformation as described by Professor B. J. van der Walt, “We cannot ignore the fact that perhaps the dominant type of Christianity on our continent is of an escapist and pietist nature. … without any relevance to the burning issues of Africa. However, if we want a new Africa, we need a new type of Christianity…. Our eyes have to be opened, our vision broadened, we have to know how to serve God in every part of our existence.” [emphasis by B. J. van der Walt]23

Based on these objectives, the presuppositional, African Christian University will include the following:

(1) In a preparatory year, students, churched and unchurched, interact with the full narrative of God’s plan for man’s redemption in Christ from the whole Scripture. The Gospel message is reinforced through preparatory work in communications and critical thinking to assure student preparation for the rigors of undergraduate-level coursework. Discipleship begins through a student labor program where existing worldviews are routinely confronted through practical application of God’s Word to daily living in relationships, hardships and successes, thoroughly exposing students to a Biblical worldview.

(2) Undergraduate courses are composed to aid maturation in the understanding and handling of the word of righteousness nurtured through biblical studies and theological preparation. Biblical discernment is constantly practiced through the study and critique of classical through contemporary literature across all disciplines of the humanities and sciences to sharpen the student’s discernment between good and evil, while developing their skills in the classical trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric.

(3) A student labor program incorporating all aspects of industrial arts, trades, crafts, businesses, technology and agriculture not only develops a self-sufficient, financially viable institute while training students in multiple life-skills, but more importantly, is the vehicle through which discipleship and mentoring can most effectively occur. It is here that renewal of the mind and moral transformation to Biblical standards is practiced. The discipler demonstrates living out faith for the student in practical application to one’s whole life through God-glorifying labor.

(4) All aspects of education will focus on benevolent application to address existing challenges in Africa. From service programs to student-team thesis projects, every student applies their talents and learning to group projects that facilitate the demonstration of Christ’s love in concern for the needs of others—eternal, firstly, and temporal, correspondingly. Such projects afford opportunity for an honor’s degree awarded to student-team benevolence projects considered worthy to seed through incorporation of necessary outside support structures, allowing students to initiate new approaches to meeting existing challenges in the African context.

The entire purpose of ACU is securing the Gospel as the foundation of every aspect of student learning and development. The re-uniting of intellectual labor along with the moral impact of experiencing the dignity and beauty of “intelligent labor,”24 into a higher education environment is anticipated to uniquely address African challenges through the outreaching, benevolent love of our heavenly Father working through Christ in His ambassadors.


This represents the purpose and vision of African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. The securing authority and reliance upon the guiding Word of God by the Reformed Baptist Church Association of Zambia is tasked to assure that the university maintains the intended course in serving Christ through the church in expanding the kingdom with servants dedicated to glorifying God with their whole lives offered to Him as living sacrifices. We trust that God may utilize such an institute to prepare ambassadors of Christ that can serve in their local churches and occupy positions at all levels throughout Africa for the proclamation of the gospel through their lives in both word and deed. African Christian University seeks to impart the life-transforming wisdom proclaimed by John Calvin in the opening page of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “True and sound wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” May such knowledge reveal our desperate need for redemption, and exalt God’s gracious response in His provision through His Son, Jesus Christ. May such understanding provide the basis for a true transformation of Africa to the glory of God alone. f

References and the entirety of this article can be found online at For m.ore information on this project go to

  1. (a) (b); both accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  2.; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  3. Williams, Walter E., “Tragedy of Africa.” The Washington Times, Commentary; Feb. 28, 2008.; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  4.; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  5.; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  6.; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  7.; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  8. (a) Moss, Todd J., Pettersson, Gunilla and Van de Walle, Nicolas, “An Aid-Institutions Paradox? A Review Essay on Aid Dependency and State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Center for Global Development, Working Paper No. 74; Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Working Paper No. 11-05. (January, 2006) (b) Arthur A. Goldsmit, “Foreign Aid and Statehood in Africa.” International Organization, 2001, vol. 55 , pp 123-148. (c) Carol Lancaster, “Aid to Africa: So Much to Do So Little Done.” University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL, 1999.

  9. Darrow L. Miller, Scott Allen and the Africa Working Group, “Against all Hope: Hope for Africa.” Disciple Nations Alliance; 2005; pp. 33-34. This book can be downloaded at: ; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  10. Nazanin Lankarani, “Transforming Africa Through Higher Education,” NY Times, Jan 17, 2011; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  11. Key issues summarized in the World Bank report: Tertiary Education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Accessed Aug 10, 2011.12, “African universities‘ key to development’ ”, Sep. 7, 2010; accessed Aug 10, 2011.

  12. Arther F. Holmes, “Fact, Value, and God.” Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, MI; 1997; p. 40. For his development of this topic, see pp. 31-40.

  13. Stuart Fowler, “The Oppression and Liberation of Modern Africa; Examining the Powers Shaping Today’s Africa.” Potchefstroom: Institute of Reformational Studies; 1995; pp. 37, 40.

  14. Bennie J. van der Walt, “Understanding and Rebuilding Africa: from desperation today to expectation for tomorrow.” Potchefstroom University: The Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa; 2003 (ISBN 1-86822-419-8); p. 524 (emphasis added by B. J. van der Walt).

  15. Yusufu Turaki, “The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria.” Challenge Press: Jos, Nigeria; 1993; p. 250.

  16. Dick Day, “Why Wait? ‘The Truth for Youth.’” Global Missions Health Conference, Nov., 2003.

  17. 22, 23, 24  This term is accredited to Booker T. Washington where he writes, “So long as we had the students only a few hours in the class room during the day, we could give attention to none of these important matters, .... most of them had the idea of getting an education in order that they might find some method of living without manual labor; that is, they had the feeling that to work with the hands was not conducive to the development of the highest type of lady or gentleman. This feeling we wanted to change as fast as possible, by teaching students the dignity, beauty and civilizing power of intelligent labor.” Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) “An Autobiography. The Story of My Life and Work.” (Electronic Edition), Academic Affairs Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; 1999. pp. 59-60. [A copy can be accessed at: ; accessed Aug 11, 2011.]


William Carey International University ( aspires to be a bridge to indigenous higher educational systems, including locations in Africa. As our founder, Ralph Winter, liked to say, we look for the “right students,” who are already in leadership roles and could benefit from foundational education and/or in-depth research, to lead change toward human flourishing in their societies. 

We have partnerships with two West African universities, one in the initial stages of being established. A number of qualified scholars will get their PhD with WCIU as a step toward becoming the core faculty of the new Francophone University of International Development, pioneered by Moussa Bongoyok, faculty member at Biola University and former dean of Bangui Evangelical School of Theology in Central African Republic. Mossai Sanguma is the president of a 3-year-old university in NW Democratic Republic of Congo, the Protestant University of the Ubangi. They offer degrees in business, agriculture, and theology. Both of these institutions have a strong foundation in God’s global purposes and intend to train leaders for both the church and society. Both of these institutions are also strongly endorsed by their countries’ governments that see the importance of higher education for developing a strong society.

The online William Carey International Development Journal ( provides a forum for scholars to share their research and questions. We welcome submissions from international educators.
Beth Snodderly, President, WCIU

Beth, Thank you for the information.  I look forward to communicating as we progress.

Do you have or can you recommend a graduate program in Development Studies that would emphasize or at least be sympathetic to a Biblical worldview approach?

I guess it depends on what you have in mind when you say, “Development Studies.” If you mean the practical side of development, Fuller has programs, with Bryant Myers and others. Eastern University has a Transformational Development emphasis. WCIU has the World Christian Foundations curriculum ( that provides a foundational understanding of God’s global purposes, integrated around an historical timeframe, with cultural and biblical perspectives. We have a 3-unit undergrad “taste” of this curriculum, that Ralph Winter considered to represent his worldview and core ideas. This is the course, Foundations of the World Christian Movement <>. WCIU is happy to give translation rights (to most of the readings) and permission to adapt the course. It is worldview-changing!

Beth, Development Studies as in the academic discipline within the social sciences related to community development.  I’ll look into the programs you’ve mentioned.  Do you know if the Chalmer’s Center (Covenant College) has graduate level programs in Dev. Studies?  Thanks, Ken

Ken-I have been following the progress of Hope Africa University and their school of medicine. In the course of looking at that school I came across several Christian schools in Africa. Some strong partnerships would be to affiliate with Christian professional Societies such as the Christian Medical and Dental Society (and their international counterparts), and professional groups such as the American Scientific Affiliation that has Christian academics, Campus Crusade, IVCF, etc. Obviously interdenominational organizations such as Accord would be great networking in international development. One thing that concerns me in looking at of these efforts is that there seems to be a lot reinventing the wheel. It would be great to have a common Learning Management System (there are several free or open source ones) and get digital scholar missionaries to help craft common courses that could be adapted to wherever the Christian university plant finds itself. Organic chemistry, biochemistry etc are essentially the same in any language. Although broadband internet may be limited in some international sites, open source video conferencing and asynchronous means could be used to extend the reach of an international partnership, helping to deliver coursework to nationals as well as enriching the learning of students in the western world. In a lot of these efforts to start Christian higher ed institutions it seems that a common missing ingredient is the deficit of preuniversity studies. I would love to see a K-12 curriculum that incorporates the Christian worldview and solid scientific preparation-homeschool, coop, Christian schools, summer programs, self study etc. to permeate the many pathways that Christian students find themselves prepping for college level studies. Send me a private message or contact info. I would love to talk to you some more. I have a particular interest in medical, public health, and development. I like your work model and think that early exposure in health care is very important.

Edward, I appreciate your comments and suggestions.  I look forward to further discussions. Please make contact through the ACU website ( so that I can respond to your personal email address.  Thank you, Ken

I didn’t see anything on the site about graduate studies, but I know Brian Fikkert (When Helping Hurts) has development and education in view.

The USCWM actually has a K-12 curriculum that incorporates a Christian worldview. This classroom model is an integrated approach, designed by Ralph WInter’s daughter. See the multi-age classroom possibilities at the website Also,. Sonlight homeschool curriculum incorporates the same historical approach. Both of these incorporate a biblical worldview throughout all subjects. Could you let me know if you want to talk about K-12 curriculum? I can put you in touch with others who know more about it than I do. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thanks Ken for these insights and ideas concerning our dear continent Africa. Indeed, for us in Ghana, the concept of gnostic dualism by Arthur Holmes is so appropriate in our so-called Christian environment. With almost 70% of our population who claim to be Christians from our last census, lives that are lived in Church buildings and chapels are different from lives that are lived outside church buildings. Most of the hundreds and thousands who fill the churches on Sundays are the same people who are corrupt and lazy from Monday to Friday. As you correctly mentioned “formulating a holistic, transformative, Christian education that fully acknowledges the preeminent need for the Holy Spirit’s work of redemption in Christ can be aided by an intimate understanding of the contextual worldviews’. This would be wonderful if the Church and Christian educational heads also acknowledges this need. l teach Worldviews and Development as a course in two Christian University Colleges. This course is done in the first year only even though students do recognize the complexity, urgency and relevance of worldview issues in our context. Students continue to demand for it to be taught at all levels and l continue to advise on how worldview issues could be integrated into various courses to help students move from theory to practice. Some heads still maintain and insist on the old traditional courses without realizing that college courses should help students identify solutions to the root problems of our African societies. 


Just got my copy of Mission Frontiers in the mail today and was intrigued by the front cover, and I suspected correctly that you were the author of the article it was advertising, Ken.  Praying today for you all.  May God give guidance and blessing, and prepare the way for all who are and will be involved in ACU.

Raquel, thank you for your prayers.  May God be pleased to grant them.

Chris, it would be a significant step forward for academics and scholarly endeavors if all disciplines were taught in a way that accepted a more holistic perception of truth.  The false attempt to eliminate God from knowledge (a secular epistemology) in thinking that a “strictly empirical” approach to knowledge is the only way to truth separates out the most significant aspects of life (attempting to deny that all men are created in God’s image) and knowledge which links empirical knowledge to knowing God (by His common grace, and intimately for those in Christ through His saving grace).  While worldview thinking must be understood as simply an approach or a tool to comprehend the world from the higher understanding of God derived specifically through knowledge of Him by His self-revelation in Scripture enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and generally through his revelation of Himself through His creation, this higher perception should be an inescapable part in the teaching of any knowledge.  If knowledge is of truth, by definition it is of God in revealing Him in the preeminence of Christ, all things being from him and through him and to him (Rom 11:36, Col 1:18).  Let’s pray that such a comprehensive approach to education from a freely celebrated biblical worldview might be holistically accomplished.  Let’s strive to be instruments through whom God might bring this about!

I certainly understand the need for higher education via Christian Universities throughout the developing world.  However, I wonder if you are using the right terminology by referring to such an endeavor as “discipling” as opposed to “Christian higher education”. I have worked with a number of men and women in Guatemala who have graduated from Christian universities and semimaries; most of them possess a great deal of biblical knowledge but lack the wisdom to apply that knowledge to life in a very difficult environment. Consequently, Guatemala and many other Latin American countries boast of large percentages of “Christians” while living in environments ravaged by violence, injustice, and poverty.  We have found that life changing breakthroughs are taking place through discipleship done through a combination of small groups (3 to 5 people) and one on one work. This work is slow and tedious that in my experience is necessary for genuine discipleship.

Hi Lyndon.  I appreciate your comments regarding discipleship.  It is a difficult target unless broken down to a nearly 1-on-1 level.  I would appreciate hearing more about your approach and experience in discipleship.  For ACU, the student labor program is the key environment for discipleship where application of Biblical thinking and (more importantly) doing is critical.  It is in this environment that we seek to apply Heb 5:14 and put discernment into well-exercised practice.  In the classroom we are striving for a more mentoring environment than simply a lecturing structure.  This will be a tall challenge as each mentor will have to be fully engaged and relationship-seeking with each student to be effective.  And you’re certainly correct: “This work is slow and tedious that ... is necessary for genuine discipleship.”

Greetings in Christ and happy Easter,
I’m Reverend THONTWA SABUNGU VON José from Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m 35 old and hold my MTh and MA in systematic Theology at Bangui Evangelical School of Theology in Central African Republic since 2004 and 2010. I’m working here in Congo as Academic dean at University Protestant of Ubangi in Gemena (Province of Equateur).It is a young University created by 2 local Evangelical churches (ECC/51eme Communauté Evangélique de l’Ubangi-Mongala and 17eme Communauté du Evangélique du Christ en Ubangi). I would like to be registrate for the PhD progam in Systematic Theology at WCIU if possible. ( I took already a registration from Bangui Evangelical Graduate School of Theology) and I’m looking for scholarships opportunuities. Then I would like to have orientation and contact from you for the scholarship program.
Hoping to read from you,
May God bless you
In Christ,
Faculty of Theology
Academic Dean
P.O Box 140, Gemena (DRCongo)

The Francophone University of International Development has started its online courses (from Bachelor’s degree to the PhD level) in partnership with WCIU and several other universities. We serve all the French speaking nations in Africa. We have started with three schools: Intercultural Studies, Business Administration, and International Development. We teach mainly in French but we accept English speaking students. Our website is We ca.n be reached through the following email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

I am very intersted by you dairy work. I appreciate it very much. I am Burundian member of Free Baptist Chuch, I am doing MBA at Hope Africa Umiversity.

Thanks much for your initiative.


Liberal politicians want to keep it that way so they gain more power and get their votes.  It obiovus every city ran by liberals is ran into the ground with most of them on welfare and half of them drop out of school the schools are so bad!  They don’t teach family values and bash Christian religion!  Churches like Rev Wright only teaches people to be Vengeful, angry and full of hate! Thats not how to grow!!!  That doesn’t help people become successful in life! It keeps them down, depressed and angry only to help marxists grow a army of haters!

Yes indeed,when the truth is known and understood, we get real freedom. This is the truth that can set Africa free and bring down the Kingdom of God as it is in Heaven
My little contribution to this holistic approach is at
May God help us to attain in Jesus name

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